Friday, January 30, 2009

Uncle Tony and Aunt David

Certain names have been changed.

When my dad found out I was a Christian, he asked me if I was okay with my Uncle Tony being gay. I never had a problem with my uncle before my conversion; Uncle Tony is one of the nicest guys in the world. Was I now supposed to hate my family because my religion?

Of course I can understand why some one would assume that. Before I became a Christian, I thought Christianity was just about hating gays, witches, and liberals. Every time I saw a Christian on TV, he was usually ranting about either Bill Clinton, rock music, or the "gay agenda." It wasn't until some one actually told me about God's love that my view of Him changed. Unfortunately, there are many others that still think God is hate--both Christians and non-Christians.

Two of the most extreme examples of Christians that are vocally anti-gay are Fred Phelps and the late Jerry Falwell. I still can't believe that Falwell went on TV and publicly said that lesbians were partially responsible for the September 11th attacks. The last time I checked, lesbians weren't behind the cockpits of those planes. But Falwell looks like a member of GLAAD compared to Phelps. No doubt you've all seen Phelps and his cult crash funerals across America, holding signs that say "God Hates Fags." Phelps is the Osama Bin Laden of Christianity; even Falwell was appalled by Phelps protesting Matthew Sheppard's funeral!

I don't really want to get into the whole "Is it a sin?" debate, but I can understand why it's such a controversial issue. On one hand, you have Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27, and a few other places in the Bible that, according to most mainstream Chrisitians, do not condone homosexuality. But on the other hand, the issue isn't as simple as two men or two women having sex. Uncle Tony and his husband David geniunely love each other, and you can't really choose who you fall in love with, can you? So that's why I try to avoid that debate. I'm still trying to figure it out myself.

But I do know one thing. As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors, no matter who they are. Gay or straight, we're all in the same boat. We're all born into this crazy world kicking and screaming, confused about what's going on. We're all messed up, and we all have our own little issues. And, most importantly, Jesus died for us all. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember reading anywhere in the Bible "For God so loved the world . . . except those dirty queers." Maybe you have a different Bible translation than I do.

Besides, I never understood why some Christians focus only on homosexuality, as if that's the only sin in the Bible. As Jim Wallis pointed out, "Jesus didn’t speak at all about homosexuality. There are about 12 verses in the Bible that touch on that question ... [t]here are thousands of verses on poverty. I don’t hear a lot of that conversation." Also, if God "hate fags," then technically God hates us all, because we are all sinners. Take 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." Why doesn't Phelps stand outside of bars holding signs saying "God hates drunks?" When a big CEO is arrested for alleged crooked business practice, why don't we hear anything from the Church?

A few weeks ago I updated my Facebook status saying I was leading my first Bible study. Uncle Tony, who is on my friends list (pratically all my dad's side is on Facebook), replied and said he used to go to Bible studies and tried to pray away his homosexuality. "But then I realized all the people who hated me claimed to be Christians," he said. I wrote him back and said, "I love you no matter what." And I meant it, too.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Why Doesn't My Pastor Have Anything Good to Say?

A few years ago, I got into a discuss about church with a relative who used to be heavily involved in church until she was involved in some sort of shady scandal that she never really explained. She never returned to church, and one day I asked her why; unlike many people I've asked this same exact question to and been given the typical "I'm spiritual but not religious" kind of answer, she said bluntly: preachers do nothing but preach.

She has never been in intriguing person, and I don't believe she said the comment to be even mildly intriguing, but I was nonetheless left intrigued. I pondered the question sometime, because, despite her lack of devotion to church, she made a good point about church: preachers sometimes, in their sincere attempt to get people to improve their lives, have a tendency to give sermons that outline the bad in life over the good.

The word preacher, oddly enough, has almost negative stigma to it today; people don't want to be preached at because that implies they're being disciplined. In this respect my relative was surprisingly right; I couldn't agree more about not wanting to go to a place that disciplines me.

I remember when the movie the Passion of the Christ came out, I was guilted into seeing it like every other Christian in the country. As Jim Caviezel had the snot beat out of him, all I could think was how late does Krispy Kreme stay open, because I could really go for a donut right now. I was secure enough in my faith that I didn't need to see some guy being beaten so I could somehow become a better Christian. I figured everyone else in the theater felt the same way until a woman behind me started wailing; and by wailing, I mean she let out the most painful cries I have heard in my life. Soon people began to do what I only imagined was talking in tongues and saying "Praise Jesus!" whenever Caviezel took a lashing. I just didn't get it; I couldn't realize how people could possibly feel better about things by watching this movie.

The whole movie I kept saying to myself, "well, at least it will have a happy ending" and then the ending came, and it only sort of implied that Jim Caviezel rose from the dead—so not only did I not have my Krispy Kreme donut, I was downright depressed. For weeks, I heard ministers saying take your non-Christian friends to see it, so they can see the good news of God—they acted like never before had there been a movie that preached the good news in such a way; I couldn't agree more, but I didn't see that as a good thing.

The next year during Easter, my Grandma came over, and she insisted we watch the film again as a family, so we could experience the cruel torture of Jim Caviezel together. What better way to celebrate Jesus raising from the dead, then to watch a movie that only vaguely references the fact that he did. I think she also hoped that my cousin would convert after seeing the movie. He of course didn't. Honestly, I think a more evangelical choice, if that was indeed what my Grandma was going for, would have been a Charlie Brown Easter.

Preacher, preaching, preach (however you want to use the word), however, was never meant to be used negatively; it was used to represent a person who tells people about the good news of the gospel. Not that we are living a life of sin and we need to change things around, but that God sent his son to die for us.

Church is not supposed to be a place for condemnation, rather it's supposed to be a place where we experience God; where a person tells us what the Bible says, and the message inspires us to feel God's presence. If that's not what church is for you, then perhaps it is time to move on.

Friday, January 23, 2009

It's the End of the World as we Know it, and I Feel Fine

I've met a lot of strange people on the Internet, but one that will always stick out in my mind is Apocalyptic Fundamentalist Lady. She used to post these long, detailed posts in Christian Livejournal communities about how American liberalism, the European Union, and the Catholic Church are somehow involved with the oncoming apocalypse. We all thought she was crazy (earlier last year she hinted in her blog that Obama might be the Antichrist), but being a rather young and impressionable Christian, her conspiracy theories are forever burned into my psyche. Now when I watch the news and see the latest on the Israeli-Palestinian strife, or the financial crisis, I can't help but wonder if perhaps the end really is nigh.

The Bible says only God knows when the world will end, so I've never understood why Christians can be so obsessed with the end times. We've got Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series. We've got Joel Rosenberg's political end times books. My library even started receiving this weird magazine about the End Times called Midnight Call. Why all this focus on the end of the world? Jesus clearly says that no one but God will know the day and hour. And yet, like Apocalyptic Fundamentalist Lady, many Christians love connecting various articles in the news together to form a detailed timeline of Armageddon.

The Bible does say that there will be signs that Jesus' return is near, and not to be caught off guard. But I don't remember Jesus ever saying that life is only about waiting for the Apocalypse. Remember the parable of the goats and the sheep? Jesus didn't say the ones on His right are going to Heaven because they figured out when the world would end. They were blessed because they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, etc. They spent their time on earth wisely by serving others.

I think a lot of it comes from fear. One of the greatest ways to control others is through fear. How else can some one go on TV and get people to give them money? Tell them that they're all going to get left behind. It's the perfect marketing scheme.

I was talking to an old friend of mine from Campus Crusade not too long ago about this apocalyptic obsession. She said that while the thought of finally seeing Jesus is exciting, "I think that's a large part of our humanness. There is a saying,'Forewarned is forearmed', but the problem with that is we can't be truly forewarned about the timing of the end, and many get so caught up in figuring out that they do indeed lose sight of what's important, which is living your life so that if it happens in this lifetime that you had lived the life God called you to live"

That's exactly what happens to me. I worry so much about the End Times and what's going to happen in the future that I forget about loving my neighbors right here right now. I think we all need to remind ourselves that God will take care of the future, and the most important thing we can do is serve Him here on earth now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gossip Girl: The New Prayer Chain

Spotted: Pastor's daughter acting more "experienced" then reverend. Looks like the family has more than a handful to deal with thanks to Little J. Time to put on your Sunday's best. There is nothing more holy than the stoning of a young maiden in the works.

Does this sound like an episode blog out of Gossip Girl or more like a regular prayer chain at a church? Regardless of what tone it is said in, (spiteful, concerned, manipulative) the aim is still the same: Gossip.

That quote was an example of years of gossip I had put my family through due to the hapless choices I made growing up. My parents were heavily involved in the church, my dad was a teaching at a Christian university, and they had a reputation to protect, a church to run, and a riotous daughter to discipline. Of course I gave people something to discuss. I provided some major damage to a reputable family. The part that bothers me the most is not the disturbance itself, it was the people who brought the adversity to a whole new meaning of scandal: the church.

As advanced in my age as I was to cause trouble, I was also very vulnerable. When the associate pastor's wife asked to meet with me because she was so worried about me, I thought my parents were up to it. My mom had tried all tactics to help me get "better" and I was sure she was behind this. During the meeting, I broke down and shared with her things I would only tell my good ol' Dear Diary. I trusted her. My parents didn't know half of the things shared. Until that Sunday. I walked in the middle of my dad's sermon, late as usual, and literally, all heads turned to me. Normally, I would love the attention, but this, I felt uneasy about. The sermon went on, and I had pitiful smiles look my way, and some were not smiles at all. The unforgiving stares made me look twice at my outfit, think of my hair, or even wonder if I was seen doing something in the area that day. The deacon handed me a church pamphlet, and for the first time ever, the church pamphlet was printed in color. With my photo inside. Underneath my photo was a prayer request, and a list of all the misery I shared with the associate pastor's wife.

I wondered why my smut was displayed publicly, but yet, the associate's pastor's divorce was not displayed. Or how the woman who leads the prayer chain goes to Alcoholics Anonymous for her current drinking habit. Or how the music director was once a gay Broadway actor in his younger days. Or how the youth pastor has battled a pornography addiction. Or how the deacon was caught with a married woman in the church gym (yes, we had a church gym).
That moment, reading all the things I did that once seemed fun, now seemed so surreal. It did not matter what I did anymore. It was how my dirty laundry was aired. I may have caused some disturbance in my heyday, but I was raised in a Biblical based home, and I could distinguish, this was not Biblical. My mother's hard work to read to us daily from the Bible paid off.
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed [1] thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14

The verse above stood out to me that most. It has been one to keep me intact. The Christians at my church were so unrighteous in their own lives, they used my exposure, my family, my life to obtain some sort of order in their own church-going lives.

Everything I had done and tried to hide from not only myself, but especially my parents, was in print. I was livid, but this time it wasn't the normal rebellious anger, it was a shameful anger. I was angry at myself for not being obedient to my parents, to God, and I can't even describe the guilt that has burdened me for years after that. I was found out. I was exposed and I had no one to be mad at but myself. Or so I thought.

Finding redemption in the church is like searching for substance in a really bad episode of reality TV. The reason I still desired a deeper relationship was because I knew my love for Christ was not based on the gossip of a church, or where I stand with God. Everyone knew I was having hardships, but their way of intervening changed my innocence of how an American church runs.

Oh, little J. Looks like the cat's out of the bag with this one. Let's just hope you have all nine lives in tact to try to save at least one.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Help, God! I Have Never Been Molested By a Minister

Earlier this month, I saw a headline for a local that said “Christian Pastor Gets 90 Years for Molesting Young Parishioners.” I guess my first thought should have been how sad and shocking, but this is American—there’s nothing shocking about a kid(s) getting molested by a pastor…heck, it’d be more shocking if they weren’t.

So what was my first thought? I wonder if I’ve been to that church. Like a lot of Americans, I have a thirst to be connected with whatever is on the news; I want to be able to say “I went to that church!” Alas, however, I have never visited the church; what’s more, I’ve never been molested—by anyone, let alone a minister.

Sometimes I worry if the fact that I’ve never been molested even makes me a true believer; it’s like a rite of passage these days. It also gives you the ability to have a better testimony, which is important in the evangelical communities.

Am I the only one who feels left out for having nothing more impressive to say about why they believe in God, except to say that their life is just better having hope in something then nothing?

On rare occasions, I’m at Christian type rallies that have people giving their testimony, and it’s like everyone is trying to top the next. You never have a guy up on the stage saying, “Well, gee, I guess I just believe because I was raised Christian, and I just never liked the alternative choices to believing.” It always starts with someone who was abused in some way (though usually it was by their parents), and through Christ they were able to forgive and move on and now their life is perfect—they even have a white picket-fence. The stories get more and more dramatic until you reach the last person whose life was so messed up you want to vomit and then kill yourself—usually it’s also bizarre; something like, “Well I was living a life of sexual sin. You see I was a lonely cattle rancher and one day got so lonely I started raping the cows.” And then at the end they sum up by saying, “I realized only God could stop me of this sin” and while everyone else is applauding and crying, I’m always feel like the lone person saying, “No—actually the only thing that could stop you from raping the cattle is moving to the city and going to a shrink.”

I’m tired of the spectacle that modern Christianity tends to bring back; I want the old, stripped down version where people had simple, humble stories to tell about how God works in the average life.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What Is This Place?

DisturbedChristians was created as a place to tell stories about ways that religion has wronged people; more importantly it is a place for sarcasm, humor, and anecdotal true accounts of when faith and culture collide. We practice love, not Christianity. And redemption? Yeah, I guess we’ll have to drag our feet and include a bit of that too—we are Christians after all—but I promise it won’t be preachy or anything like that, because nothing makes a blog blow more than people telling you that you can go to heaven. If you have your own story to tell, we want to hear from you! We can’t pay you anything (yet), but if you believe you can buy your way into heaven, then this might just be your ticket!